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Outdated industry codes not fit for digital tech

I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t agree that education is critical for New Zealand’s future prosperity. Most people also agree digital technology is an increasingly important part of our future. Beyond the tech sector, digital skills are in demand across all other sectors to lift productivity, analyse information and create new products for the world.

The tech sector is New Zealand’s fastest growing sector and now our second largest contributor to exports. Plus, with more than 50 percent of the demand for tech skills coming from other sectors, one would assume that technology plays an important role in the Government’s review of vocational education (RoVE).

Unfortunately, as Paul Matthews from IT Professionals describes in detail on RNZ nine to noon, those redesigning vocational education just don’t get it. In theory, to oversee the development of courses, six Workforce Development Councils (WDC’s) have been created to provide industry greater input into course design. After multiple iterations, a WDC has been created that combines Creative, Cultural, Recreation and Tech. The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has provided a tool to help identify which WDC industries will be represented by.

However, a major problem is WDC’s have been designed based on standard industry codes, last updated in 1987! Yes, that’s right, the year the mobile phone was invented, Microsoft launched windows and Apple brought us the 16-bit IIGS personal computer. There have certainly been a few changes since then! 

Using the tool, ‘digital’ brings up nothing. To find IT qualifications, you need to search for the ‘Internet’ industry. ‘Interactive media’ (video games, mixed reality, AR/VR) doesn’t exist. There is no ‘screen’ industry, but if you search ‘video’ you find the ‘motion picture’ industry, need I say more?

Meanwhile, in another part of Government, we are developing the Digital Technology Industry Transformation Plan, which clearly recognises it as an industry.

Another major issue is the WDC’s are siloed. For example, the Manufacturing WDC or the Primary WDC don’t have any connection with tech. In reality, technology is an essential part of these industries. Like creativity and business, technology isn’t just a sector, they are skills required across all sectors. Two weeks ago, I attended a working dinner with Minister Hipkins and pointed out how the TEC appear determined to jam square pegs in round holes, rigidly conforming to outdated Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZIC) codes.

NZTechIT Professionals and WeCreate are continuing to advocate for one WDC that is horizontal and works closely with the other five. If this isn’t sorted, New Zealand as a whole, will suffer.

On a happier note, Techweek2020 is only three weeks away! If you want to get a sense of how important tech is for New Zealand, get involved in Techweek. Towns, schools, companies, universities and people throughout New Zealand will join the weeklong celebration of tech. With over 150 events and 60 Techweek TV sessions on offer, it can be tricky to keep track of everything that interests you. The Techweek team explain how to create your own Techweek2020 playlist.

Ngā mihi

Graeme Muller


PS: If you haven’t already, please don’t forget to submit an event for Techweek2020 by Friday. Plus, if you’re new to presenting online, here’s some great tips.

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